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Sagan’s Coach: Amstel is a race that suits Peter perfectly

Peter Sagan's coach feels that the new Amstel Gold course suits the world champion 'perfectly.'

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FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), winner of Paris-Roubaix on Sunday, is better suited to the Amstel Gold Race now that the uphill Cauberg finish has been removed.

The team modified his schedule for 2018 for him to have a crack at the Dutch one-day classic in Maastricht on Sunday. Instead of racing the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne in late February, they started his classics run later in the season to keep him going one week longer to the Amstel Gold Race.

“I think it’s a race that suits Peter perfectly,” coach and team sports director, Patxi Vila told VeloNews. “He’s in shape now, so why not?

“Normally, with the entire cobbled classics, it’s too long, also for the length of time you need to be focused. Like this, it’s the same about of weeks just skipping the first two races Omloop and Kuurne. We have the same time frame as last year, but changing those races for Amstel.”

Sagan is lining up to race Amstel on Sunday after a five-year hiatus. The three-time Slovak world champion finished third in 2012 and 36th in 2013, but never returned to Maastricht for the Amstel Gold Race. In the meantime, he shifted his focus to Milano-Sanremo and the cobbled classics.

Since 2017, the race no longer climbs out of Valkenburg to finish on the famous Cauberg climb. Belgian Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) won three editions of Amstel Gold and the 2012 world championships on the previous iteration of the course.

The 260-kilometer race still includes many bergs in the countryside around Maastricht, including the Cauberg, but now features a flat final five kilometers.

“I think it’s better for him. It suits him given the kind of riders he’ll find in the final,” continued Vila. “If we were speaking about Marcel Kittel or Fernando Gaviria, then an uphill finish would be better, but in this case he can be stronger. I think that this time it’s better for him.”

The German WorldTour team will race differently than they have in the past. Sagan will no longer take charge and shape the race. Instead, they will look to teams like Quick-Step Floors with Julian Alaphilippe, Sunweb with Michael Matthews, and Movistar with Alejandro Valverde.

“In the cobbled classics, everyone was on his wheel, but now he’ll need to follow some wheels at some point in the race,” said Vila.

“Maybe you’re looking to a solo finish in the cobbled classics, but probably this time you don’t want that. Or it would be hard to get. In this type of course with these types of riders, it’d be hard to drop them on the climbs, so you need to follow and hope for a small group sprint.”

To show how serious the team is, Sagan avoided going home after Paris-Roubaix and stayed in northern Europe to train and focus on his last race in this stretch. After the Amstel Gold Race, he will end his spring campaign and return to Monaco. He will enjoy some time off before some altitude training and the Tour of California starting on May 13.